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MSc Investigative Forensic Psychology

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  • Delivery:
    Full time according to Funding Council definitions

Unlike other courses which focus on offender assessment and rehabilitation, this new course will examine the theoretical and investigative aspects of forensic psychology, tracking the criminal justice process from the crime scene to the court room. It is an exceptionally hands-on, practical course, using our unique on-campus Crime Scene Training Centre together with Psychology Testing Suites with the latest eye-tracking and face-processing equipment.

As well as the underlying theories regarding the psychology of investigations and considering areas such as how face processing can assist identification of individuals, you will explore different offence types - sexual offending, murder and violent crime, group offending (including terrorism, hooliganism and rioting), and different forms of cyber-crime (e.g. hacktivism and on-line sexual abuse).

You’ll be expected to investigate and scrutinise violent mocked-up crime scenes to provide written and verbal evidence, learning how to present expert witness testimony in a mock court.

You will evaluate victims, witnesses, suspects and offenders, environment, geography and time, working with practitioners who create fieldwork, case studies and exercises based on their real experiences.

Guest speakers sharing their knowledge will be an integral feature of the course, as will Terri Cole, the course leader's own experiences as a Behavioural Investigative Adviser and Serious Crime Analyst. Terri worked for a number of years with police forces providing offender profiling, crime scene assessment and offence linkage advice in relation to serious sexual offences and murder. She brings her expertise and experience together to focus on crime scene behaviour and how psychology can assist investigations on this new course. Take a look at our student's journey.

Key information

Next start date:

September 2018, September 2019


Bournemouth University, Talbot Campus


1 year

Entry requirements:

A Bachelors Honours degree with 2:1 in any subject or equivalent. English is not your first language you'll need IELTS 6.5 (Academic) or above. For more information see our full entry requirements

International entry requirements:

If English is not your first language you'll need IELTS 6.5 (Academic) or above. For more information check out our full entry requirements.

Course details

Core units

Investigative Psychology: The theoretical and practical understanding of investigative psychology, focusing on serious crime investigations. You will initially explore the roles psychologists can play and general theories regarding why people commit crime, and subsequently specific theories as applied to different crime types including murder and violent crime; serial and sexual offending; group offending and cyber-crime.  Case studies will be embedded to demonstrate investigative issues and how behavioural investigative advice (including offender profiling and offence linkage), crime analysis, and police decision making are used.  Once these fundamentals are covered, you will learn about investigative interviewing with a focus on interviewing victims and witnesses. 

Forensic Perspectives in Face-Processing: Focuses on the individual differences in face-processing, with an emphasis on the forensic implications of this work. As well as examining cognitive and personality factors that may influence our face recognition ability, you'll consider social biases that affect our ability to process faces. This body of research will be discussed in relation to eye-witness testimony identification and occupations that require proficient face recognition skills, like passport control and other forensic and security settings. You'll be introduced to the concept of ‘extraordinary’ face recognition – the ability for example demonstrated by some police officers when attempting to identify individuals from CCTV footage, and debate will focus on whether these skills can be taught to typical perceivers.

Professional Practice in Forensic Science: Providing you with an understanding of, and initial training in expert witness and courtroom skills, legal and practical aspects of evidence.  We will demonstrate pre-trial duties, courtroom procedures, lawyers’ requirements, and the preparation and structure of the expert witness’ report. The unit will be delivered through a combination of lectures, training in court room skills and practical exercises involving behavioural analysis of simulated crime scenes. This unit is shared with students on similar courses, and the simulations are tailored to each degree, so you may be working alongside archaeologists excavating a simulated murder case and anthropologists undertaking the only simulated mass grave exercise currently offered as part of a UK Masters programme.  Such joint working reflects the multidisciplinary nature of the work in practice.

Advanced Research Methods: The unit covers a range of research methods and a tool used for conducting advanced level research, and describes the intricacies of experimental design in such contexts. The unit aims to prepare students for undertaking independent research using advanced research techniques. 

Advanced Statistics: You will learn and apply a range of statistical techniques intended for analysing data from psychological research. These are advanced techniques which are not covered at undergraduate level. 

Key Transferable Skills - Presentation & Scientific Writing: Here the key skills for interpreting, presenting,writing and publishing research are taught. Topics include writing research and grant proposals, presentation skills and developing advanced writing skills.

Research Project: You'll work closely with a member of staff engaging in discussions in order to choose an appropriate research project based around a particular topic that interests you, or expanding an element from the course that you want to pursue further, perhaps linked to your future career aspirations. You will be responsible for providing an in-depth literature review, designing  and undertaking a study in order to  address your research question. You'll also be expected to collect and analyse data and provide a full write up of the project. Supervision for your project will be provided in regular meetings.

Programme specification

Programme specifications provide definitive records of the University's taught degrees in line with Quality Assurance Agency requirements. Every taught course leading to a BU Award has a programme specification which describes its aims, structure, content and learning outcomes, plus the teaching, learning and assessment methods used.

Download the programme specification for MSc Forensic Investigative Psychology.

Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the programme specification, the information is liable to change to take advantage of exciting new approaches to teaching and learning as well as developments in industry. If you have been unable to locate the programme specification for the course you are interested in, it will be available as soon as the latest version is ready. Alternatively please contact us for assistance.

Full entry requirements

The normal requirements for embarking upon this course are:

  • A Bachelors Honours degree with 2:1 in any subject or equivalent.
  • For post-experience and professional qualifications, there may be additional entry requirements set by the association or institute that ultimately administers the qualification in question. The qualification description on the course information pages should tell you what these are but please get in touch with the Future Students Enquiry Team if you are in doubt.

If you lack the formal academic qualifications needed to enter a postgraduate or post-experience degree, there are several alternative routes to follow. Some of these are based on experience. Contact the Future Students Enquiry Team for more information.

International entry requirements

If English is not your first language, you will need to provide evidence that you can understand English to a satisfactory level. English language requirements for this course are normally:

IELTS (Academic) 6.5 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component of writing, speaking, listening and reading or equivalent.

View further information about our English language requirements.

A number of pre-sessional English and preparatory programmes are offered through our partner institution, Bournemouth University International College, and will get you ready for study at BU at the appropriate level.

You can also find further details of the international qualifications we accept, and what level of study they apply to, on our postgraduate entry requirements page.

Selection criteria

Applicants will be expected to show evidence of their motivation to study the main topics of the programme on their application form.

Relevant work or voluntary experience should also be described on the application form.

You should provide details of two referees: satisfactory references will be required to complete your application.


This course will give you a sound understanding knowledge of how and where you can responsibly and pragmatically apply knowledge and findings from research into real world situations and within a number of potential work environments.

During the course, you will be made aware of your professional responsibilities working in the field  - for example when writing reports, being an expert witness or conducting research.  These can include consideration of ethics, managing personal development and building resilience.

The applied nature of this course will appeal to both new graduates and experienced professionals looking to expand their opportunities in fields such as crime analysis, policing (locally or with agencies such as the National Crime Agency), court work, victim services, insurance agencies, secret services, social work, emergency services, academia, research and policy implementation (College of Policing, Ministry of Justice). 

After finsihing the degree graduates from this course have gone on to a rich variety of job roles including:

Social Researcher/Analyst for the Office of National Statistics
Police Constable
Civilian Investigator
Serious Crime Analyst at the National Crime Agency
Assistant Serious Crime Analyst at the National Crime Agency
Ministry of Justice (HM Courts & Tribunals Service)

Further study

If you want to continue your studies after achieving your Master's, you can look into our range of doctoral programmes.

No hidden extras

As a student at BU we will provide many things to support you and there will also be additional costs you may encounter whilst studying at BU. The information below will help you understand our provision and what you need to budget for.

What you can expect from us

All of your teaching and assessments are included in your tuition fees, including, lectures/guest lectures and tutorials, seminars, laboratory sessions and specialist teaching facilities. You will also have access to a wide range of support and services.

  • One set of study-related consumables such as a memory stick
  • Materials for laboratory and field-based teaching activity
  • Support for placements (UK or abroad) and fieldwork and non-financial support whilst on placement
  • A range of student services – advisors, help desks, counsellors, placement support and careers service
  • The Library – access to a wide range of electronic resources (databases, e-journals and e-books), print and multimedia collections, subject librarians and study spaces
  • IT labs (some open 24/7), wireless network, AV equipment to borrow
  • Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) scheme
  • Disability and additional learning support
  • The BU Language Centre to help you develop/improve foreign or English language skills
  • 24 hours a day, 365 days a year security team.

Costs of living and other expenses you need to consider

  • Accommodation and living costs: view our price guide
  • Text books: remember that our award-winning library is stocked with a large range of text books for all courses, as well as online resources such as industry journals, free of charge
  • General stationery and other supplies such as print and presentation materials: the Students’ Union shops stock a wide range of stationery supplies on both campuses
  • Travel to, from and between BU campuses: our bus service operates in the local areas offering a subsidised travel rate; we also have a large number of secure bike storage compounds
  • SportBU membership: check out our student membership packages, sports events, varsity teams, information about our new facilities and more on the SportBU webpages
  • Optional fieldwork travel, outdoor wear and footwear (where applicable)
  • Telephone and travel costs incurred when undertaking interviews for coursework/securing placements.
  • A fee will be payable towards the cost of an Educational Psychology Assessment if this is required in connection with additional learning support. BU pays for approximately two-thirds of the cost of this assessment for UK students. For more details and current pricing please visit the Students section of the website.

Repeat Units

If you need to repeat one or more units during the course of your studies, you may be required to pay additional fees equivalent to one ninth of the tuition fee per 20 credit unit.

Financial help available from BU

We offer a range of scholarships and bursaries to students who are beginning their studies at BU. Our website also provides details on living costs, budgeting and paying your tuition fees.

Meet our staff

Dr Terri Cole is a Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology. She completed her undergraduate BSc (Hons) in Psychology with Criminal Justice from the University of Plymouth in 1999. Within this Terri undertook a placement year with the National Crime Faculty at Bramshill Police College, where she returned upon graduation, working in the Serious Crime Analysis Section as an Assistant Analyst and then as a Serious Crime Analyst until 2002. She then succeeded in gaining a position there as a Behavioural Investigative Adviser (and latterly Senior Behavioural Investigative Adviser). Terri's role entailed attending incident rooms and crime scenes advising serious crime investigations throughout the UK (predominantly stranger murder, rape and serious sexual offences) in relation to offender profiling, behavioural crime scene assessment, offence linkage and prioritisation of persons of interest to the investigation.

Read more about the specialist interests of our Psychology staff online, or register now to meet us!

Hear from our staff

Professor Remco Polman

I’m very proud of the staff we have here. The skills and expertise they pass on to students give them the perfect background to move on into careers or further study.

Hear from our staff

Professor David Osselton

I really like working with our students. They’ve got open minds and will tackle complex problems without having preconceived ideas that something can’t be done because it’s too difficult.
Simon Phelps

Career development

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International students

We have a strong international student community. Find all the practical advice and information you need here.